I like urban funk. It has style, passion. It's creative, emotive, ethnic. It has attitude. Like "Whatcha lookin' at? You like? That's cool. You don't? Your problem."
Some people mistake it as rudeness, arrogance, showboating. It's not. It's a keen connection with the jazz of life--its contrapuntal rhythms and riffs.
It's a zoot-suit approach to reality, even in a tight-collared white shirt and pinstripes. It's a celebration of cultural duality: "Yes, sir. Why, of course. Hey, what's up, my brother?"
You put a 200-horsepower engine in it, add some totally bodacious sheet metal and four sticky 16-inch tires and it turns into Chevrolet's 2000 Monte Carlo SS coupe. Talk about attitude! I mean, go on, car, with yo bad self!
Totally urban. Totally Detroit, although it's assembled in Canada. What the heck? Canadians can be funky, too.
Understandably, the new Monte Carlo is not for everyone. The uptight and self-righteous need not apply. Buy a Honda. Folks who believe Germans invented engineering can skip this one, too. They'll never give Chevrolet credit for doing something right. No matter that the Monte Carlo SS can run their VW Passats, 3-series BMWs, and E-Class Mercedes-Benzes off the road.
Nahh. This is a car for people who believe that prestige is in motion, the way you look on the dance floor or when you enter a room, walk down an aisle or move down the highway. The attraction isn't in the label or nameplate. It's in the form and mood.
Sexy, sexy. The new Monte Carlo is very sexy, which is an essential element of funk. It retains the long hood and short rear deck of the original Monte Carlos. But the styling is more rounded, muscular--a design theme carried all the way to the vertical taillights, which are capped by tumescent clear plastic lenses.
People noticed this car. It drew small crowds everywhere I parked. "What's that?" some wanted to know. Others said, "That's hip." Others sneered, as if they were looking at the ultimate example of bad taste.
That's what I call balance, the ability to gain attention from admirers and detractors alike. Being loved is nice, but being hated also has its good moments, especially when you can leave the haters in the dust.
I'm happy that Chevrolet decided to put a standard four-speed automatic transmission in the car. Manual shifting isn't all its cranked up to be, especially when there is an electronically controlled transmission that can do the job better.
Besides, the Monte Carlo SS is no lightweight. It's a big, two-door coupe built on the same platform as the four-door Chevrolet Impala sedan. It's tightly constructed. Chevrolet uses an aluminum cradle to support the engine and a magnesium beam for the instrument panel's backbone, all of which helps to eliminate errant shake, rattle and roll. But the Monte Carlo SS weighs 3,340 pounds. Who wants to manually shift that?
I had a good time in this car. I put it on the road every chance I got. If Chevrolet wants to send another one, hey, that's okay by me.
Nuts & Bolts
2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Complaints: The heaviness of it all. People looking for a light, sprightly coupe won't find it in this one. But those in search of big-muscled power will be more than pleased. Also, the base Monte Carlo, the LS, lacks standard traction control. Though the new Monte Carlo is front-wheel-drive, you need traction control--the ability to limit wheel slip--in this heavy runner.
Praise: The in-your-facedness of it all, and the pleasure derived from leaving supposedly more sophisticated cars, and certainly more expensive ones, gasping for air. Adolescent? Perhaps. But I've always been suspicious of adulthood.
Head-turning quotient: Maximum neck snapper, especially in black on black trim atop five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels.
Ride, acceleration and handling: You can feel the weight of the car at low speeds, but at full throttle it feels light, quick, sharp. Acceleration? Changes lanes with authority. You don't have to beg anybody for entry. Very little evidence of body sway in curves.
Brakes: Both the SS and LS get power four-wheel discs with antilocks.
Engines: The SS gets GM's 3.8-liter Series II V-6, designed to produce 200 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 225 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The LS gets a 180-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6.
Capacities: Seats five people. Holds 17 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade okay. Trunk space is a generous 15.8 cubic feet.
Mileage: About 24 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.
Price: Base price of the tested Monte Carlo SS is $21,735. Dealer invoice on base model is $19,888. Price as tested is $23,031, including $736 in options and a $560 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: A lot of car for the money.
Join Warren Brown online tomorrow at 11 a.m. at www.washingtonpost.com/ liveonline for "Rear Wheels," his live discussion about cars.